“The Pretender” is back once more to entertain his most loyal fans for a second go-round on a new network. Tonight at 8 p.m., TNT premieres “The Pretender: The Island of the Haunted,” the second in the trilogy of original movies based on the canceled series.

Paul Wong
Michael T. Weiss and Andrea Parker.<br><br>Courtesy of TNT

For those of you just joining us, here”s a little recap: Jarod (Michael T. Weiss), a genius, was stolen from his parents when he was four, and taken to an objectionable and treacherous think tank called the Centre. Here he was formed into a Pretender, someone who has the ability to be anyone he wants to be. Jarod eventually escapes from his prison and ventures into the real world in search of his parents. Along the way, Jarod uses his abilities to impersonate multiple professions, allowing him to help all those he encounters. Looking for Jarod is Miss Parker (Andrea Parker), whose father runs the Centre. For four years, Jarod has eluded her while exposing the Centre secrets from the past. Jarod comes to find that he and Miss Parker share numerous connections, including a brother.

Building on the secrets revealed in the last movie, “The Pretender 2001,” Jarod and Miss Parker search for answers regarding his mother and her father. Their search leads them both to Carthis, a Scottish island rumored to house a great evil. The duo, with the help of a blind visionary, learn about an ancient evil secret society, the Vesparians, which possessed scrolls said to hold great power.

Hoping to find the truth through the scrolls, Jarod and Miss Parker get trapped on the island during a dangerous storm, and are forced to work together for the first time, altering their cat-and-mouse relationship forever.

While some of the questions raised in the last movie are precariously answered, more mind-boggling issues are raised, particularly why the Centre desperately “needs” to find Jarod. Even he doesn”t believe it”s because of his talents anymore. Unfortunately, that question is basically disregarded in favor of Miss Parker”s paternity and the revelation of her true father, a la “Empire Strikes Back.” Not to worry, she doesn”t lose her hand.

There are many points in the movie that fans will truly enjoy. We finally catch another glimpse of Jarod”s mother (fleeting of course), and the complex relationship between Jarod and Miss Parker is finally starting to heat up. Trapped together, they are forced to confront each other and face their true feelings. In the series, they were never in the same scene for more that a few minutes except when the two were thrown into a precarious situation. The chemistry between Weiss and Parker is still strong and they play off each other well.

The movie also intertwines the Centre”s past with Jarod”s search for his family. It was definitely not a surprise to learn that the Centre spawned from an ancient evil order, but the movie makes it perfectly clear that the Centre”s lies are beginning to hinder its progress.

The mythology of the show continues to evolve, perhaps too much so. Much of the movie focuses solely on Jarod and Miss Parker, neglecting the rest of the supporting cast, especially Sidney (Patrick Bauchau) and Broots (Jon Gries). The dapper doctor and the lovable computer geek are left at the Centre to do research while everyone else gets to have all the fun. Fortunately, we do get to witness a braver Broots, as he still pines for Miss Parker.

A fair warning to those who have not followed “The Pretender” regularly: You many not be able to follow the plot. However, for those of you who are not loyal Jarod fans, the film still offers enough action, thrills and mystery to keep anyone”s attention. From ghosts to haunted pasts, “The Pretender: Island of the Haunted” kicks the series into high gear, leaving another cliff-hanger ending and fans thirsting for the explosive ending befitting of such a creative show.

The new two-hour film is preceded by a 19-hour marathon of “The Pretender” episodes culminating in an airing of the series finale as well as “The Pretender 2001.”

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